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How great and how good?: Third places, neighbor interaction, and cohesion in the neighborhood context.


Though Ray Oldenburg's (1989) notion of "third places", or places conducive to sociality outside of the realms of home and work, has received both scholarly and popular attention over the past several decades, many of the author's central claims remain empirically untested. The present study considers the association between neighborhood third places, cohesion and neighbor interaction. Drawing on various literatures regarding interaction in public space and neighborhood use-value, we consider how the role of third places might vary according to neighborhood socioeconomic context. Using data from Wave I of the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study (LAFANS) and data on third places from the point-based business data of ReferenceUSA, we test the effect of third places on cohesion and neighbor interaction across neighborhood poverty strata. We find support for the hypothesis that third places are associated with greater cohesion and neighbor interaction, and that neighbor interaction mediates the relationship between third places and cohesion in poor neighborhoods.

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